Poché gets starting nod in regional opener

Jared Poché has trouble sleeping the night before normal starts on the mound.

So he might be a little groggy Friday.

Poché will start for LSU against Southeastern Louisiana at 2 p.m. Friday in the Baton Rouge regional opener. Poché, a freshman from Lutcher who has served as the Tigers’ No. 2 starter, will pitch against the Lions’ ace, Andro Cutura.

LSU (44-14-1) will save ace Aaron Nola for a possible duel Saturday night against the No. 2 seed Houston.

“I don’t know how much sleep I’ll get tonight,” Poché said Thursday afternoon.

Poché (9-3, 2.21) gets his biggest start of the season, but he’s battled through pressure-packed starts the past two outings. He started the series against Auburn and opened LSU’s SEC tournament run with a win over Vanderbilt.

In those two road starts, Poché allowed eight hits and one earned run in a combined 15 innings.

Poché’s challenge, Nola says, is getting through the first inning.

“Key is to stay calm. You’re going to get amped up, a lot of adrenaline running through your body with all of the fans, with all of the electricity,” Nola said. “Get through that first inning and you’ll be all right.”

Nola’s been there before. As a true freshman, he started the Baton Rouge regional opener in 2012, throwing a four-hitter through eight innings against Louisiana-Monroe. LSU won that game 4-1.

Poché and Nola learned the regional rotation earlier this week, but Mainieri forbid them from revealing it to reporters. Mainieri had toyed with the idea of saving Poché for the game against Houston. The Cougars (44-15) have seven left-handed batters in their lineup. Poché is a lefty, while Nola is a righty.

Mainieri said Thursday that he was “out-thinking” himself.

“I kind of slapped myself and said, ‘We might not even be playing Houston in the second game. Good chance we’ll be playing Bryant. I don’t even know if we’re going to beat Southeastern,” Mainieri said. “There are so many variables. I was kind of out-thinking myself.”

So Poché, it is. He’s not expecting much sleep.

“Going to bed tonight it’s going to be awesome,” Poché said. “I’ll be pumped up, heart will be beating pretty fast.”

Looking for better start

Alex Bregman didn’t see the end of LSU’s Baton Rouge regional opener last year.

He was at the hospital.

Bregman was involved in a hard collision with Raph Rhymes in shallow left field in the tense 11-7 win over Jackson State last year at Alex Box Stadium — a blemish in a rocky opening game.

LSU starting pitcher Ryan Eades walked three and allowed four runs in a short 2.1-inning stint, and the Tigers fell behind 2-0 early. Bregman and Rhymes, racing for a fly ball, collided and had to leave the game early.

Rhymes needed three stitches to close a cut on his upper lip. Bregman was taken to the hospital and had X-rays taken of his facial bones, but the results came back negative.

“I learned any team can come in here and win a game,” Bregman said of last year. “Jackson State was playing with us for a long time, long, long time. “I didn’t get to really see it. I was in the hospital. Was listening on the radio. I also learned to communicate on fly balls.”

Lions connections

Multiple LSU players played with Southeastern Louisiana ace Cutura during summer ball, and Mark Laird and Sean McMullen know several players from Southeastern’s team.

“Played against most of them in high school,” said McMullen, from Metairie. “I have some friends on the team that went to my high school. I’m looking forward to that challenge. Kind of a dream come true for both of us meeting together for a chance at Omaha.”

Said Laird: “Come Friday night we’re going to be enemies. We’re going to do anything we can to win.”

Nola All-American

Nola was one of 17 players named to the Louisville Slugger First Team All-American squad announced Thursday by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.

The honor comes two days after Nola was named SEC Pitcher of the Year. A junior right-hander from Baton Rouge, Nola is 10-1 with a 1.49 ERA this season. He’s struck out 127 and walked 26.

Nola, projected to be a top-10 selection in the MLB Draft on June 5, was named a first-team All-American by five different outlets last year. Louisiana-Lafayette second baseman Jace Conrad was also named to the first team. Conrad is batting .367 and has driven in 55 runs.

Kentucky’s A.J. Reed was Collegiate Baseball’s Player of the Year.

Lagniappe

Houston and Bryant are meeting for the first time Friday. … Bryant enters the regional having won 16 straight road games, a run that currently leads the nation. … LSU leads the overall series against Southeastern 64-17 and has won 18 of the lat 19 meetings. … The Tigers have an 83-19 mark in NCAA regional games.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU baseball, follow our Line Drives blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/linedrives/.